Florida mom whose son drowned defends controversial video of infant daughter learning to swim

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Florida mom whose son drowned criticized over swimming safety approach for daughters
WATCH ABOVE: A video showing a Florida mom's six and a half month old daughter falling into a pool face first as part of a controversial pool safety technique has generated attention online – May 9, 2016

A Florida mom who lost her son in a drowning accident is coming under fire over the water safety method she is using to train her two daughters, one of whom is under a year old.

Keri Morrison lost her two-year-old son Jake in 2013, after he slipped out of a family member’s home and fell into a waterway.

Now Morrison has enrolled her daughters in Infant Swimming Resource (ISR), which was founded in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett, and teaches infants to “self-rescue,” a technique the company says has saved more than 800 lives.

WATCH: Controversial Infant Swimming Resource explained

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Controversial Infant Swimming Resource explained

“The first thing we establish in our lessons is breath control, so before that child ever goes underwater, I know that that child can safely hold their breath.” Stacy van Santen, a certified instructor with ISR told NBC’s Today show.

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In a video posted by Morrison, her six and half month old daughter, Josie, is seen falling face first off a set of pool stairs into the water.

WATCH: Mother defends controversial video showing infant submerged in pool

Click to play video: '‘I don’t see how there could be anything negative’'
‘I don’t see how there could be anything negative’

The video records the baby sink beneath the surface for nearly four seconds before resurfacing on her back.

“You’re seeing a six month old sitting on the steps playing, which can be a real-life situation,” she said.

“She falls in and she turns over and saves herself and floats for over a minute and a half,” Morrison said. “I don’t see how there could be anything negative about that.”

However, some viewers find the video distressing and the practice irresponsible.

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WATCH: Backlash over video of 6-month-old learning to float

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Backlash over video of 6-month-old learning to float

“You moms and dads with kids under one trying to teach them to swim need to rethink,” Den Clark posted on the ISR Facebook page. “I tried and my son ended up in the ER.”

“What does a little baby know about saving itself from drowning? They are so scared and traumatized,” posted Susan Renna. “They shouldn’t even be near a pool unsupervised, and the doors to the backyard should be locked at all times,” she added.

But Morrison fired back saying the training is another way to prevent drowning if all other safety measures fail.

“Do I expect my daughter at that young of an age to be alone near the water? No,” assured Morrison. “But the layers of protection can fail. Supervision failed. It failed with my son and it can happen and I just want my daughters to be as safe as possible.

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“No one plans on losing their kid in a drowning, said Morrison. “It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

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A 2015 study prepared by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada on behalf of the Lifesaving Society of Canada showed nearly 43 per cent of drownings involving victims under the age of five happened while a guardian was present but distracted.

The Canadian Lifesaving Society said the ISR program instills a “false sense of security“ in parents, making them believe their child is “drown-proof.”

“It has parents feeling over confident,” said Barbara Byers, the Lifesaving Society’s public education director.

The Infant Swimming Resource website currently lists trained instructors operating in Vancouver, Calgary, and Regina.

“There is nothing wrong with providing your children with swimming safety,” said Byers. “Having children and parents comfortable around water is a very good thing.”

READ MORE: Father dead, son in critical condition after being found in hotel pool

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that children over one “may be at a lower risk of drowning if they’ve had some formal swimming instruction.”

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According to Byers, there is “no scientific evidence” to support the type of training ISR is conducting with its students.

That sentiment was backed up by the AAP, which said swimming instruction could not “prevent drowning in babies younger than one year of age.”

“You can’t assume a child is trained and can save themselves if they are in a water emergency,” said Byers. “A young child doesn’t have the cognitive ability to roll over in an emergency situation.”

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